Twitter activists have always been fain to hijack trending topics with disruptive content, with the pancake takeover of the Million MAGA March hashtag as a recent case in point. Black Friday and Cyber Monday were no different this time around. Trending topics celebrating the Thanksgiving weekend deals saw a swathe of hashtags protesting against the Amazon monopoly: #MakeAmazonPay, #BreakUpWithAmazon, #BoycottAmazon.
Bezos grossed $70B during the pandemic
On Monday, Amazon.ca’s landing page greeted shoppers with a cheerful message in salmon pink: “Shop deals now before they’re gone.” For those of the Boycott Amazon camp, a $49.99-deal on a tablet is no temptation, not when they are conscious of the hidden humanitarian and environmental costs that make such a low price economically viable for the eCommerce monolith.
According to Business Insider, the surge in online consumerism during the COVID-19 pandemic has made Amazon an estimated $1.7 trillion company, with CEO Jeff Bezos becoming the world’s wealthiest man. The company has also been identified as the biggest culprit of “aggressive” tax evasion alongside six other tech giants like Facebook and Microsoft. The Guardian reported, citing a report by tax transparency campaign group Fair Tax Mark, that Amazon has just paid $3.4 billion in taxes so far this decade on profits of $26.8 billion, bringing the effective tax rate to 12.7% compared to the headline tax rate of 35% for most of that period in the US.
While Amazon seldom releases exact data about their profits and resource allocation, last year’s Cyber Monday totalled about $9.42 billion in purchases, with roughly 70.8% of online consumers flocking to Amazon during the Thanksgiving weekend leading up to Cyber Monday.
Workers don’t enjoy the fruits of their labour
Does everyone at Amazon benefit from its handsome profits? The answer is no, according to The Guardian. Warehouse labourers have endangered their health and wellbeing throughout the pandemic as frontline workers, only to be rewarded with a slight pay increase. Moreover, nearly 20,000 workers have either tested positive or have been presumed positive for the virus, a number released only after the company received relentless pressure from labour groups.
To fulfil the holiday demands this year, full-time workers have been issued a one-time bonus of $300 and part-time workers $150 as incentives. Amazon is also enticing new hires to accommodate the Yuletide rush with sign-on bonuses of up to $3000, while extant workers have been given $10 Thanksgiving turkey vouchers during one of the company’s most chaotic times of the year, Bloomberg reported.
“Jeff Bezos could pay a $105,000 bonus to every Amazon worker and still be as rich as he was at the start of the pandemic,” according to Forbes.
The worker-executive disparity is apparent not only in income but also labour rights: Amazon has allegedly monitored workers’ productivity and union organizing in the past, as reported by Vice. Amid high shopping demands, workers have reportedly urinated in bottles to meet packaging quotas. Bezos himself had once said “I don’t believe we need a union to be an intermediary between our employees,” and, according to Progressive International, has entrenched this anti-union philosophy into the training of managers, who are taught to identify signs of labour organizing and extinguish such efforts.
As Make Amazon Pay so tersely expressed, “Amazon takes too much and gives back too little.”
Global organizations want to #MakeAmazonPay
Make Amazon Pay has become one of the most vocal Amazon detractors, especially this Black Friday, when their online petition and manifesto were rapidly circulated online, raising concerns over the company’s carbon footprint, worker exploitation, and lack of data transparency.
Make Amazon Pay is an international coalition of warehouse workers, climate activists, and citizens aiming to make Amazon repay their debts to their workers, the environment, and society, and urging complicit governments to reform policies that have enabled Amazon’s impunity thus far.
“Like all major corporations, Amazon’s success would be impossible without the public institutions that citizens built together over generations,” the coalition’s six-page manifesto states. “But instead of giving back to the societies that helped it grow, the corporation starves them of tax revenue through its world-beating efforts at tax dodging.”
Shoppers who have become disaffected with Amazon’s practices but still want to score Cyber Monday bargains have started pursuing alternatives within their local communities. Green America has compiled a list of small, certified Green businesses shoppers can support during the holidays. At the local scope, independent business owners in Toronto have introduced a retail event, “Small Business Saturday,” sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
According to the CFIB, only about 38% of local businesses are hitting their usual sales goals, with about 158,000 businesses across the country risking permanent closure. Small Business Saturday encourages shoppers to forgo big box stores and instead patronize the local shops to help them stay solvent during the most crucial shopping season of the year.
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